DC’s oc­cult de­tec­tive gets his due

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There are worse dark fan­tasy films than Fran­cis Lawrence’s 2005 adap­ta­tion of DC Comics’ long- run­ning Ver­tigo ti­tle Hell­blazer. But it’s hard to imag­ine a more mis­cast ac­tor than Keanu Reeves in the ti­tle role of John Con­stan­tine. The ghosts are laid to rest, how­ever, in pro­ducer David Goyer’s new take on the su­per­nat­u­ral sleuth, which sets off on ex­actly the right foot with yanked-from- thep­ages blond, Welsh ac­tor Matt Ryan re­plac­ing Reeves in the new 2014 TV model. Ryan has just the right bal­ance of en­ergy and world­weari­ness to serve as our guide through the spirit world for how­ever long the show runs. ( And if ru­mours are cor­rect, Warner Brothers will use the show to in­tro­duce a host of DC’s other para­nor­mal prop­er­ties to the screen.)

The pi­lot, di­rected by Dog Sol­diers’ Neil Mar­shall, nicely sets up Con­stan­tine’s mis­sion against a gath­er­ing dark­ness ( loosely based on his in­tro­duc­tion in The Saga Of The Swamp Thing sto­ry­line “Amer­i­can Gothic”). It also lays the foun­da­tion for Con­stan­tine’s quest for re­demp­tion, after fail­ing to stop a de­mon and ac­ci­den­tally damn­ing a young girl to Hell. For­tu­nately, our hero is granted al­lies, in­clud­ing Lost’s Harold Per­rineau as Manny, the an­gel as­signed to guide him, and Charles Hal­ford as Chas Chandler, Con­stan­tine’s old­est friend and driver. The weak­est link is Lucy Grif­fiths as Liv Aberdeen, the wide- eyed girl thrust into this sly stranger’s world. Grif­fiths does what she can with the ma­te­rial, but she’s a Doc­tor Who com­pan­ion fight­ing to fit into what should be the para­nor­mal TV equiv­a­lent of a David Fincher movie. For­tu­nately, Goyer and his fel­low pro­ducer Daniel Cerone cot­toned onto the prob­lem be­fore au­di­ences did, and, in the sec­ond episode, re­placed Grif­fiths’ character with Angélica Ce­laya’s Zed Martin, Con­stan­tine’s street- smart equal, pulled – un­like Liv – di­rectly from the pages of Hell­blazer.

Given the other sup­port­ing char­ac­ters al­ready an­nounced for this sea­son – among them voodoo king Papa Mid­nite and Em­mett Scan­lan as the Spec­tre – the fu­ture looks suit­ably dark for the trench­coat- garbed ex­or­cist. Joseph McCabe

He may no longer smoke, but he’s still got his lighter.

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